West BloomfieldDecember 3, 2012
Educators give progress report on social justice
By Eric Czarnik
C & G Staff Writer
WEST BLOOMFIELD — Social justice has been served in the West Bloomfield School District, and according to several school officials, it has been served well.
At a Nov. 19 Board of Education meeting, Scotch media specialist Carrie Betts and Orchard Lake Middle School science teacher Frank Williams spoke about the training teachers have taken on social justice. Betts and Williams are representatives of the district’s social justice committee.
“This committee was started three years ago through a partnership with U of M,” Betts said. “Over the course of the summer, we have met. We have continued to meet.”
According to Betts, the social justice committee’s mission is to “cultivate an environment of social integrity that moves us from judgment to compassion … to ensure that the uniqueness of each individual is embraced.”
In the short term, Betts said teachers are trying to work together and communicate to create a professional environment that teaches staff how to cover social justice issues and understand student identities.
From there, the plan is to slowly integrate the things that teachers are learning into the classroom. “One of our long-term objectives involve creating a social justice library… a library of resources, for our teachers that connect to common-core standards,” Betts said.
School officials say their facilities’ student bodies are diverse. According to their research, WBSD students speak 49 languages, and between 5 percent and 6 percent of students were students of Schools of Choice in the 2010-11 school year.
Williams stressed that social justice is a much larger issue than just Schools of Choice, a program that accepts students from outside the district’s boundaries. “We’re still in the process of collecting more data,” he said.
Williams said the social justice committee also plans to conduct an outreach effort and send out representatives to each school’s parent-teacher organization. He also said he hopes the initiative can work with existing anti-bullying campaigns in the district, such as “No Place for Hate.”
This is not the first time that the WBSD has discussed social justice. In 2011, Assistant Superintendent for Instruction Robert Martin said he and a group of WBSD teachers took professional development workshops in partnership with the University of Michigan.
The workshops dealt with ethnicity and social justice and taught ways to construct better relationships so that students from different backgrounds can feel accepted and do better academically, Martin said.
In recent years, Martin said, the school district has striven to narrow achievement gaps in secondary education that showed poorer students or those in certain minority groups lagging behind other groups.
Learn more about the West Bloomfield School District at www.wbsd.org or at (248) 865-6420.